So here we go! Day 1 and I’m already behind! Most of this post is background info. and pre-Day 1 activity. I hope to post Day 1 race recap/summary later tonight to be back on schedule for Day 2 tomorrow!
I thought I’d be able to keep this concise, but I’m finding that more difficult than expected. While I was planning on keeping the posts for these 10 days light, and was planning on writing more about personal/non-endurance-related topics down the road, I found it hard not to share some of the things that drove me to enter the DECA, so I will begin with an uncharacteristically frank bit about myself, the experience of DECA and the personal growth it facilitated for me.
A bit of background about me . . .
It’s no secret that ultra endurance sports often attract people who’ve struggled (or are struggling) with mental health/depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem, weight, addiction, eating disorders, etc. I’m certainly not immune to these afflictions. While I enjoy endurance sports and the solitude often associated with it, my enjoyment is reinforced through the medicinal benefits that regulate my mood and tendency towards depression. I’m a better father, brother, son, and person when I’m active. Simply put, heartbeats make me happy! While I’ve turned to endurance activity as a mostly positive outlet, I think these events can also enable or provide an easy place to hide. I hope this might bring awareness to an issue that for too long has had a strong, negative social stigma attached to it, especially among men. Despite being increasingly more common, mental illness, depression, self-image, and suicide remain cloaked in silence, secrecy, and shame. More on this later.
Insecurity, a lack of self-worth, and resulting anxiety have long been unwelcome guests throughout my journey in life. As such, it was easier for me to spend time alone. I was known as the quiet, shy kid and as I got older, I probably came across as a bit unfriendly and/or disinterested (reminder to myself to share a funny story about one of my now closest friends). I think many of us are like that duck floating on a pond . . . calm and collected on top, while our feet are paddling like crazy just to stay afloat. Despite playing Division 1 soccer and graduating with honors from a top engineering school, I could never shake the feeling of not being good enough. I learned a bit too late in life that sometimes people who can’t, often don’t want you to succeed! Hopefully, I can expand on this later.
Training & racing was a way for me to challenge and change the experience of feeling less than. It’s easy to simplify things and search for validation through success . . . being successful will fix everything, right? Despite having a good job and beautiful family, I didn’t feel successful. At the time, I equated success with achievement and being “fast” which to me meant a Kona qualification. The problem with this type of thinking is that nothing is ever “fast” or good enough. I qualified for and raced in Kona in 2002, 2015, and 2016. Surprise, surprise . . . nothing changed! I felt no different about myself and if anything, felt worse. During this time, I was unconsciously searching for the missing piece to my puzzle. For years I was struggling with what Ironman had become and was drawn to events that were less commercialized and more grassroots in nature. I wanted to find challenges driven more by a personal goal or cause and less by results and ego. I had always wanted to do Ultraman (before I even wanted to do Ironman – my first IM was in 1999 or 2000) but never thought it was possible. Why? Because I never thought I was good enough. It took a long while, but in 2017 I finally shifted my mindset and focused on people, rather than performance. At Ultraman FL in 2017, I swam a 2:35 (thanks John) en route to a 6:53 day 1 finish time and victory. I was able to hold onto to 2nd place after a Day 2 8:27 bike time. After running the first marathon in 3:3x, the rest of Day 3 went horribly wrong. After struggling to the finish line, the last thing on my mind was finish time or place. I was happy. I left that race with a full heart and experiences and friends I’ll have for a lifetime. I met one of my absolute best/closest friends, Tom “Ultraman Tom” Waniewski at UMFL 2017. I met Boki, Juanma, Ryan, Jeremy, Manmadh, John, Jen, Chuck, and many others. Ultraman Florida in 2017 fundamentally changed me and led me to Epic. While far from feeling like everything was right in the world, I finally felt I was on the right path.
THE EPIC DECA
My Epic application was originally accepted for the 2018 edition of the classic Epic5, but some of the above mentioned “noise” and general life complications got in the way and I had to withdraw. I then set my sights on the 2020 edition, but soon after found out they were planning a 10-year anniversary edition. I mean more is better, right?!?! I contacted Rebecca and asked if I could transfer to the Deca. We didn’t know each other at the time, and I remember her nicely trying to persuade me to stick with the Epic5. To be fair, my ultra resume was rather thin, but much of that was because I don’t race much. I never enjoyed racing. That said, I’ve done countless HUGE training days, weeks, months and crazy self-supported adventures. They don’t call me Crazy Train for nothing, right Mandy?!? This is what I do, and I felt like I was made for an event like the Deca. The EpicDeca was originally planned for 2020 but was canceled due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions. In many ways, this was a good thing for me. I was not prepared. I was dealing with the end of my 20-year marriage, not having a home, financial stress and uncertainty, and a knee surgery (it took the better part of a year for my knee to feel close to “normal” again), and the unknown that was Covid-19. While physically ok, I was struggling with my mental health again. I was not motivated and not in my best physical shape. I finally started to train consistently in Nov./Dec. of 2021. I was planning on racing the inaugural Ultraman Arizona in March and then the Deca in May. My knee was still not quite right in early January, and I made the decision to withdraw from UMAZ in order to not jeopardize the Deca. With about 8 to 10 weeks until the Deca, my training became more focused, and my knee continued to improve. I didn’t do the amount of volume I would traditionally put in (which for me would’ve been in the range of 25 to 30 hours/week for several months). I was still 10 to 15 pounds overweight but did manage to complete a huge 5 to 7 day block of training (approx. 40 hours in 5 days) 3 weeks out from the Deca that provided some confidence that I could get through 5 days (I’m happy to share any specific training details also). An interesting aspect of my personality is that while I’ve always lacked confidence and self-esteem/self-worth, I never for a second believed I wouldn’t complete all 10 days. My concern was really only limited to things beyond my control, such as travel/logistics, equipment failure/issues, sickness, etc.
In the months leading up to the race, my crew handled all details so I could concentrate on my equipment and my training.
My main weapon of choice for the event was my Argon 18 E-119 Tri+ Disc. I chose a Sram Force eTap AXS 1x groupset with a single 48 tooth chainring and 10-36 cassette. Wheels were HED Vanquish RC8 wheelset (tubeless). I also brought a HED Vanquish Disc and an RC6 front wheel. Hydration/nutrition was via one single BTA bottle cage….clean and simple.
My crew for the first 5 days consisted of my mom (aka, the Chief), my younger sister, Melissa, and her husband Chris. Rebecca, I know you were impressed by my crackerjack crew! I was hoping to have my first triathlon friend and mentor, Rod Mease, along for the journey as well but he was unable to attend. Rod – you may not know it, but I owe a lot to you and thought about you often throughout the event. My mom and sis crewed for me at UM Florida also. My brother-in-law, Chris, is a cyclist and took care of all things cycling! Several pics of the Chief are included because she obviously deserves special recognition! She’s small but mighty . . . a literal force of nature. She is a physician, mother of seven, grandmother of 16, great grandmother of 1, Ironman Hawaii finisher, and all-around badass! Below is one of the very rare pics of the entire Galietta clan.
Ironman Florida 2015 . . .
Kona 2015 . . .
Brick at St. Michael’s Church in Kona . . .
Ironman Maryland . . .
Ultraman Florida 2017 – Day 1 Victory (with the Chief and my sister, Melissa)
We arrived at the Embassy Suites Waikiki on the night of May 7th. After a long day of travel, everyone went to sleep except for the Chief who roamed the halls and lobby until it was time for her to walk to St. Augustine’s Church for 7am Mass on the 8th. We all went to the athlete/crew breakfast, bike inspection and registration. It was great to finally meet Rebecca in person! We took a nice evening walk and enjoyed Tacos for dinner. This is a good time to mention that I’m vegan . . . powered by plants!!
On May 9th we attended the Meet and Greet Breakfast at the hotel dressed in our finest Deca attire and posed for team photos. It was great seeing some familiar faces, Julian, John (my kayaker for UMFL), and Juanma! We spent the day getting everything ready, going over my nutrition plan, which I had written out in detail, (again, more than happy to answer any questions) and discussing my “race” plan, which consisted of me telling my crew “this is not a race” and that I planned to implement a 9/1 or 4/2 run/walk strategy to ensure I started off slow/easy. Start slow and then slow down was my motto (this is important as it will come up again when I write about Day 1)! I went to check out the swim location at Ala Moana Park and go for a short 30 min swim. We enjoyed a nice walk to dinner, Thai this time!
Prepping Race Fuel/Nutrition . . .
Day 1 and Day 2 Schedules – Oahu . . .
Day 1 summary to come soon . . .
Note: Epic Pics by the one and only Colin Cross.